Let me be clear, this isn’t a review. It easily could be, but I don’t want it to devolve into that. As I’m such a huge fan of this man’s work, I doubt I could convince people into thinking any review of a boxset containing 4 discs of music that I have already bought previously could be anything other than biased, so there’s really no two ways about this, and the sooner I get this out of the way the better.
I am for all intents and purposes a Devin Townsend fanboy—just look at the damn alias I chose for this site. I love pretty much all of music, his congeniality, his humor, and his down-to-Earth personality. With that said, I don’t love everything he’s done, and I will openly discuss the various works that have disappointed or felt lackluster to me, but yes, for the most part I am a fanboy. So it was only natural that I bought his magnum opus of a boxset, Contain Us. This monolith houses the last four releases from Devin Townsend, and is a shining reminder of all of the hard work and dedication he has put into his craft, not just with DTP, but throughout the entirety of his career. So yes, this is not a review, but a reflection on this project, and the all important pieces of music that have so heavily affected me over the past 3 years.
I’m fairly new to heavier music, and that includes Devin Townsend, and if I’m being perfectly honest, Ki was my first exposure to this man. I remember being linked to a Myspace (remember those days?) sample of ‘Disruptr’ back in early 2009 and instantly falling in love with the shifting atmosphere on that track. After obtaining Ki, I started delving into his back catalouge and the rest is, as we say, history. But let’s talk about the music on Ki for a moment.
Even though Ki was the first album I listened to by Devin, I can still look at it as a progression from his earlier works. It’s not hard to see the linear change in style throughout Devin’s career, and I think Ki represents the full capacity of Devin’s ability to adapt, change, and grow as a musician. After Ziltoid, I doubt many people were expecting the somber, down tuned, and jam-session like quality of Ki, but even though the music isn’t being thrown in your face like that of Devin’s heavier albums, the power is still there. In fact, this can be said to be one of Devin’s heaviest album, maybe not sonically, but emotionally. There’s so much depth and compassion dripping from the songs on this album. The sparsity of the lyrics and the ethereal tone of the vocals makes every word utter on this album seem all the more important. Everything seems well placed, and purposeful, but oddly enough, it also seems rather train of thought like. To me, this is one of the most honest records to come out of this man. You can practically feel his reluctance to go back to his old ways, and it’s clear he has developed some sense of c0ntrol, but you can feel his resolve waning a bit. Which leads into Addicted…
Addicted is so fucking good. Like with Ki before it, I doubt many people were expecting the full force of fun that is Addicted. Right from the get go the listener is bombarded with the much loved wall of sound that is so present on all of Townsend’s other albums. This album kind of seems like a culmination of all the heavy, and commercial stuff that he was been working on through out his careers. Some parts sound like Ocean Machine, some parts sound like Accelerated evolution, and some parts sound like Physicist and The New Black. A lot of people were thrown off guard by the accessibility and commercial aspect of this album, but I don’t entirely understand that; Devin’s been making commercial music from the start, and a lot of Addicted isn’t even close to the accessibility of Ocean Machine or The Devin Townsend Band. This is the DTP’s so called Happy album, but to me a lot of it isn’t all that happy. With songs like ‘Supercrush!’, ‘The Way Home!’, and ‘Numbered!‘, this seems more like the Insecure album. It’s filled with jovial goodness, but that all just seems like a ruse. Devin seems so vulnerable on this record, and I just can’t explain why. Some parts are silly, and happy but for the most part there’s this lingering apprehension that keeps building up, and like before, the last song fully embraces that, gives in and flows into the monster that is Deconstruction.
Now like a lot of people I went into Deconstruction not really knowing what to expect. Devin seemed to contradict himself quite frequently when discussing this thing. His initial words were that it was going to be the album that reflected what he was trying to do with Strapping Young Lad, but it didn’t quite turn out that way, and he even refuted that claim towards the end of the wait for this album. Deconstruction is the very essence of what Devin’s career has been building up to. When you listen to Devin’s albums in chronological order, including Strapping and his other projects, despite the shifting tones and sounds they all seem like an organic transition from one to another, and the same can be said for Deconstruction. It’s an odd album, but it feels very at home, and frankly probably one of the most spectacular releases this man has put out. Even if you don’t like the music you should at least be able to find some sort of respect for this man when looking at the sheer scope and magnitude of this…thing. Everything is just so… grandiose and absurd. It’s the angry album, it’s the theatrical album, it’s THE album that seems to truly reflect the man’s intents as an artist. In my opinion it has everything. I wouldn’t say it’s his best, but it is certainly something amazing and truly an accomplishment
Ghost, the last official album in this musical adventure, or whatever you want to call it. For me, and probably many others, this record is far more jarring than Deconstruction end up being. Despite everything Devin said before its release, I just wasn’t expecting this record. It’s heavy in an atmospheric and emotional sense, as well as production wise. It’s hard to explain the way I feel about this record; sometimes I love it, and sometimes I hate it, but there’s always this lingering connection to it. Maybe I’ve become too entrenched in this man’s music to even fabricate some sort compliment towards a record like this. I don’t quite know, but this record is here and I think it needs to be listened to, and I think people need to try and understand it. It’s a bit absurd that after 4 or 5 years all these fans are still expecting Devin to snap back , grow out his hair, and reunite Strapping Young Lad. This record makes it very clear that such a thing is never going to happen, and it shouldn’t. I think this record is the first step to Devin making that Happy record that he claimed Addicted was. I think that’s what Epicloud will end up being; a full on homage to everything that makes the man giddy. Here’s hoping.
These are the 4 Devin Townsend Project albums. This is the essence of Devin Townsend’s last three or four years. It was exciting and nerve wracking to listen to Deconstruction and Ghost, as well as the two bonus discs that came out with Contain Us, but nothing really soldified the idea that this was the end of an age of music up until I heard the Contain Us 10 inch. The vinyl contains two songs, Dinosaurs, a track that has been mentioned for years, going all the way back to when Devin first started writing The DTP albums, and the song A Ziltoidian Rapture. The latter track is a silly barage of orchestration and meandering chatter from Devin’s personal sidekick, Ziltoid the Omniscient. While most of it is silly and absurd, towards the end the track hits an emotional key when Ziltoid utters the resounding statement:
This is Ziltoid the Omniscient Signing off. Thank you for your attention. Thus ends the DTP!
And that’s it folks. As Ziltoid said, thus ends the Devin Townsend Project. Some people will say it was just four more albums in the mans solo project, and that he’s going to continue making more solo records. Yeah, that is true, but I think it’s a bit different than that. There was a certain essence to these records, a certain emotional attraction and resolve behind them that I don’t think we had seen in his music before, and now that’s he’s done spilling his heart out over this period of time I don’t think the feeling is going to be the same. Now that’s not to say I think his music will get worse or anything, I’m just saying that this is the end of an era, and while there will be many more to come, it is still a bit heart wrenching to see this one come to a close. That’s all I had to say, thanks for reading my meandering thoughts.